Once upon a time, quant funds were THE investment vehicle every sophisticated investor had to be in. For instance, in 2006 Kiplinger, one of the big personal finance platforms, argued that quant funds were a revolution in active investing, taking the emotion out of investment decisions:
“Human emotion and behavior are too often the enemy of sound investment hygiene. You probably should be buying when the herd is selling and selling when the herd is buying. Many investors fall deeply in love with the stocks they own. Fund managers and Wall Street security analysts often behave like cheerleaders for the companies they’re supposed to be dispassionately analyzing. All this emotion partly explains the growing interest in so-called quantitative funds, mutual funds largely managed by soulless computers that crunch the numbers.”
So far, so good. But what happened to the quant funds of all those math whizzes? Morningstar just published an analysis of quant funds and the results are devastating:
“The carnage has been widespread. For example, seven of Bridgeway’s eight actively managed funds that rely exclusively on quant models land in the bottom third of their Morningstar categories over three years through July 28, 2010. The same is true of six of Goldman Sachs’ eight quant funds with three-year records. JP Morgan has a lineup of eight Intrepid brand quant funds, and each has lagged its typical category peer over the past three years. Vanguard’s quant group has struggled, as has AXA Rosenberg–its four Laudus funds will soon be liquidated.”
How come? Basically, quant funds use many different and complex variables to predict stock market success that showed good performance in the past. Yet, history never repeats itself exactly. The crash began in the summer of 2007. Most quant funds lost substantially and, after changing their strategies over the course of the crisis, they were then not able to profit from the upswing since 2009.
Not surprising and another confirmation that active investing will not be able to beat the market over extended times. Tragically, investors have often paid exorbitant fees to the quant funds as many of them used hedge-fund-style compensation models.